« PreviousContinue »
HE Lives of private Men, though they afford not Examples which may fill the Mind with Ideas of Greatness and Power, like thofe of Princes and Generals, yet are they fuch as are more open to common Imitation; there are few within whofe Compass thofe Actions are, that is, there are, comparatively speaking, few Princes or Generals, but the Actions of a private Man are as Counsel to all; if good eligible, if bad deteftable, and to be avoided: For this Reafon most wife Men have delighted in faithful Biography. But here lies the Difficulty, fo few are true to their Subject, for Partiality either of Love or Hate, has caufed many fo to magnify or multiply the good or bad Actions of thofe whofe Lives they write, that it is Scarce poffible to know how to diminish, or what to divide by, to find the first Figure A 2
or Number they had to work upon; fo that when (not without fome Intreaty) I was induc'd to take upon me to write Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Mr. POPE, of whofe Poetry, Criticifm, and Satire, I had always been a profefs'd Admirer, I refolv'd not to fuffer my Admiration to carry me greater Lengths than the cooleft Reafoning could justify, it being not my Business to write Panegyrick, but to illuftrate Mr. POPE'S Works, and fhew what manner of Man he was, as well as how great a Poet: To this End, I have made ufe of all poffible Means, my Friends, as well as myself, having spared no Pains to procure what Helps were attainable, fome few I had in my own Hands which were never made publick, and the World Stands obliged to thofe of all Stations, who have been fo kind to hand to me for this Ufe, what they thought would contribute to give Light into his Life, but most of all we are affifted by his own Letters and Works, by which Means, feveral Things before in Difpute, are now clear'd up, and others long forgotten, reveal'd to Memory, the Time and Place of Actions doubtful, fully fixt, and many Things once warmly contended for by cer
tain cenforious and ill-natured People given up.
By the Quotations it will appear, that a large Number of Authors have been perused and confulted in this Cafe, and that nothing is affirmed without fome Evidence; for how vain would it be to impofe Fictions upon the Publick under the Pretence of a real Character?
Befides this, I thought it highly proper, writing of Mr. Pope's Patrons and Friends, not barely to mention their Names, but to give fo much of their Character as might Show of what Class (not only as to Quality, but Tafte and Understanding) they were in: This I have done in the Duke of Bucking ham, pretty much at large, as well as the Bishop of Rochefter; I have taken Notice of Dean Swift, Mr. Dennis, Mr. Rowe, Mr. Cibber, Mr. Walsh, Sir William Trumbull, Sir Richard Blackmore, Mr. Oldmixon, Mr. Eusden, Dr. Garth, Mr. Mr. Welfted, Mr. Gay, Mr. Bloome, Mr. Digby, Mr. Theobald, Mr. Moore Smith, and have not forgot a great Number more, fome Friends, and feme Enemies, to Mr. Pope, keeping as near as I could to their true Story of Life, and carefully a
voiding fuch Circumstances as have been re ported upon flight, or no Authority.
As to the Criticifm upon Paftoral, it will not be entirely difagreeable to the Ear of those who love Poetry; if the Comparisons be just, be affured that the Quotations are fair. The Tranflations from the Italian of Taffo and Guarini are my own, those from the Aminta published fome Years fince, being the fourth Tranflation of that Paftoral into English.
I hope it will be plain that I have spoken of Mr. Pope every where with the greatest Impartiality, and that I have not neglected to infert in thefe Memoirs, any Thing by which his Fame might be enlarged and continued down to late Pofterity, if this Labour fhould live fo long; for herein, I must confefs, I have not confulted my own Intereft, but took it in Hand (how unequal foever to the Talk) left fome other of more Art, might, mingling Falfhoods with Truth, give to future Times a falfe and imperfect Idea of our great Poet, Critick, and Satirift.
There are feveral Things which I have omitted, though worthy of Notice, as not being certain whether they are not Spurious, and fome Pieces, though I am certain they
were wrote by him, as he has not thought fit to honour them with his Name, I enter not into their Merits, but, as he defires, impute them not to him: There are, likewife, a few Verfes which he wrote upon a merry Miftake made by a Phyfician, at the Houfe of a noble and most estimable Earl; but, as I have not Liberty to publish them, they fhall be fupprefs'd.
Except thefe, I have not received the leaft Hint from Perfons of Honour and Credit, (to whom I return most grateful Thanks) of which I have not made fome Ufe, and defire to be excufed by thofe from whom I have had Papers without Names or Vouchers, for the Facts contained, at the fame Time expreffing a Difpleasure against fome, which I know to be dishonourably falfe, and if I were able to learn where to return them, I would do it with the Reproach and Contempt they and their Authors deferve.
It was by particular Defire that I enlarged fo much on the Effay on Man, and the Univerfal Prayer---In regard to the Ethicks, I have offered them to the Reader's Confideration, and taken Care to be guided in general by a Comment well approved of by Mr. Pope.